RSNA: PACS may endanger relationship between rads and clinicians

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CHICAGO--The transition to digital image management may have diminished the role of the radiologist as a member of the clinical team and made it more difficult for radiologists to remain connected with their clinical colleagues, according to a pilot study to be presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Chicago, Nov. 28 to Dec. 3.

The study also revealed that clinical subspecialists tended to consult radiologists they shared a personal relationship with and often interpreted images themselves. The trend may impact patient care, study author Allison Tillack, a graduate student in the MD/PhD program at University of California, San Francisco, told Health Imaging News. When clinicians don’t with connect with radiologists, they may lose the specialists’ critical knowledge of medical imaging.

The qualitative medical anthropology study explored the impact of PACS on professional relationships between radiologist and clinicians. Tillack observed 40 radiologists and neurologists during medical practice and interviewed a subset of the physicians.

Tillack analyzed the observations and interviews to determine patterns among the physicians. “The difficulty of establishing and maintaining relationships of trust between clinicians and radiologists due to the drop in post-PACS reading room visits emerged as a major source of concern for study participants,” according to Tillack.

There is a need to reinstitute the radiologist as a member of the patient care team, Tillack stated. Because face to face interactions have declined since the advent of PACS, radiologists should consider using alternate forms of communication to cultivate professional relationships. Tillack suggested an array of strategies: email, text messaging, phone conversation or interdisciplinary conferences.

A longer-term solution may be to embed the reading room in the clinical ward. For example, the musculoskeletal room might be located in the orthopedic surgery ward, shared Tillack. The configuration can help set the stage for effective interdisciplinary collaboration because radiologists would be more likely to have clinical information such as operative plans. “They can contribute research papers or literature that the surgeons may not access,” explained Tillack.

The next stage of the medical anthropology study is a quantitative review of the data, shared Tillack, who will present the study on Wed., Dec. 1 from 3:30 to 3:40 p.m. in S102D.